On Word Count, and Why It Bothers Me So

Once, during a test, the teacher handed mine back to me and told me that I was infamous for writing as little as possible.*

To which my reaction was:

That is to say, I was shocked.

At the time, I thought she was crazy.  After all, I wrote what needed to be written.  I had all the right points there.  I answered all the bullets.  If I had two sentences for a “paragraph,” so what?  I was on my way to being a BESTSELLING AUTHOR.  I did not need tips on how to “improve” my writing.

Oh, how conceited you were, little girl.

Turns out, my teacher was right.  I do write insanely short pieces.  Part of it is because I write small, but part is because I’ve somehow found a way to pack every single little bit of information into the least amount of sentences possible.  Did you know the average YA novel is AT LEAST (around) 75,000 words?  SEVENTY-FIVE THOUSAND.**

That’s pretty much impossible for someone like me.

Which brings me to the main point of this: as a writer, I need to be able to keep track of how long my book is, and therefore how much more I’ll need to write.  And if I end up with only 30,000 words, I can either sell it as a short story, or most likely I’ll need to suck it up and write some more.  Write some more and write some more until I have something vaguely reminiscent of an actual novel that someone would publish.

That means that either I need to just pack more plot in there (which would get confusing after a while- after all, that’s what sequels are for), or learn to write more in a scene.  Which will be hard.  But, if you think about it, that day in the classroom was probably the best thing that could happen to me.  It was less, “you’re terrible, go fix this,” and more, “you need to expand a bit.”

So that’s what I’ll learn to do.  I will expand.  I will expand if it kills me, and I WILL WRITE MY NOVEL.***

And when I do, the word count will be perfect.  The pacing will be superb.  And I will be laughing at my little girl self as the award nominations roll in.****

 

*Infamous, Teacher Who Shall Remain Nameless (And Is Not Snape)?  Really?  Do all the teachers gather at lunch and talk about my lack of prose?

**According to my favorite blogger author, Maggie Stiefvater.  Her site is in the sidebar, and I got that little nugget of information from this video.

***Sorry about all the footnotes, but this one’s important: Even if I don’t get the word count the first time, I can go back later.  After all, that’s not what really matters in the first draft.  Getting your story out there and all worked out is what counts (teehee, counts, get it?…Oh, never mind).

****Yes, I’m kidding about the nominations part.

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5 thoughts on “On Word Count, and Why It Bothers Me So

  1. I think you are amazing. For someone who says very little, you can really ramble on on-paper. (I am just a little partial, however.)

  2. Pingback: The Awards Want to Get to Know Me Better « Novel Journeys

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